This week marks the beginning of training camp for NFL teams, and essentially, the start of the football season. FINALLY! Fantasy players are doing all the research and mock drafts they can in preparation for the new season. One major area to research are players looking to bounce back this season. The truth is, some players ranked rather high don’t live up to the expectations we come to expect from a top draft pick. Maybe they don’t have the kind of year we’ve grown to expect from them.
Injuries can be a factor, but sometimes it’s a product of the system in place. No matter the issue, fantasy owners don’t have short memories and will be weary about taking the player that did them dirty, the following season. The draft stock of the player typically drops the following season, giving an owner an opportunity for some good value if he/she believes that player can have a bounce back season.
Often times, a player in a contract season, is reason enough for a player to have a bounce back season (please see Doug Martin). In most cases, however, it’s more than that, so it’s important to know if the risk is worth the reward. We note some key players looking for redemption in 2016 that could return to fantasy relevance once again. Keep in mind that although injuries are a factor, those that missed the entire 2015 season will not be featured here since they’re really coming off of their 2014 performances. Therefore, guys like Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin will not be mentioned for this piece. With that said, here are some candidates that could have bounce back seasons and be a major impact for your fantasy teams.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Last season, Dez Bryant was ranked as one of the top receivers on the board and a surefire first round selection in preseason rankings. Coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons and a career-high 16 touchdowns in 2014, it was understood why. However, in 2015, Bryant owners soon felt the pain of investing a first round pick in a guy that barely played half a season. Bryant injured his foot in week 1 in a game against the New York Giants. As if the news of his injury wasn’t bad enough, the reports of how much time Bryant would miss made it even worse.
Originally, Bryant was expected to miss 4-6 weeks, which is a tough pill to swallow but manageable as a fantasy owner, provided you have quality depth at the position. But then, reports came out that he could miss 8-12 weeks. No matter who you listened to, the reports always seemed to conflict, frustrating Bryant owners to no end. In the end, Bryant finished the season playing just 9 games, for 31 receptions and 3 touchdowns – all career lows. It didn’t help at all that fellow quarterback Tony Romo played in just 4 games all season, as he battled a fractured clavicle and later, a fractured collarbone that ended his season.
Preseason rankings are giving Bryant a pass for his low production in 2015 as he is ranked right around where he was this time last season. Romo and Bryant are both healthy (for now) and will look to get back to form in 2016. Bryant is still one of the top receivers in the league that will be targeted highly in 2016 and very capable of once again recording double-digit touchdowns.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
The best way to describe Eddie Lacy in 2015 is with the nickname “Chubbs.” Chubbs was a consensus top 5 pick heading into the 2015 season and went number one overall in many drafts. It was apparent though that Chubbs had gained a considerable amount of weight despite his denial. Alabama boys have the reputation of being bigger backs but it makes you wonder what exactly it is Nick Saban is feeding these guys, but hey, Roll Tide.
In his third season, Chubbs recorded career lows across the board. He was supposed to compete with Le’Veon Bell as the top rusher last season but Chubbs became one of the biggest disappointments and busts in fantasy football. Now out of denial, Chubbs is attempting to be Eddie Lacy again and has lost an estimated 20 pounds. This off-season, he teamed up with P90X founder Tony Horton to participate in the grueling workout.
The workouts looked to have paid off and Lacy looks to be Lacy again. Lacy’s draft stock has slid some as he is now considered a late 2nd – 3rd round projection in 12-team formats. Lacy is just 26 years old and entering the prime of his career. He still has RB1 potential and could rise back to the top of fantasy rankings with a stellar season similar to his first two.
Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers
Another Packer looking to bounce back this season is Randall Cobb. The Packers offense, as a whole, was never fully in sync last season despite reaching the divisional round of the NFC Playoffs. The loss of Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL put the Packers, most notably, Cobb in a hole they couldn’t seem to get out of. Cobb was upgraded to the Packers’ number one target when Nelson went down, a role he showed not to be very comfortable with.
Cobb was still targeted 129 times in 2015 but caught just 79 of those. His 10.5-yard average per reception was the lowest in his career. With Nelson expected to return to the lineup, Cobb will return back to the slot position, where he is most comfortable. We found out firsthand last year, that Cobb is much more dangerous and fantasy relevant with Nelson on the field.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be happy to have all his weapons back as well. Cobb has been mocked in the 4th rounds so far this season, down from his 2nd round projections we’re used to seeing. Back to full health, the Packers will look to make another Super Bowl this season. A lot of that will depend on how well Cobb brushes off his down season and bounces back in 2016.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans
DeMarco Murray might be regretting ever leaving the Dallas Cowboys. After his incredible season in his final year with the Cowboys that saw him finish atop the fantasy charts in 2014, Murray’s draft stock has slid drastically. No one realistically expected the same results from Murray in 2015 after signing with the Philadelphia Eagles, but no one predicted such a drastic drop-off either. The Eagles still had an uptempo offense that Murray should’ve been just fine. However, it got so bad that teammates Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles began to receive more touches in the final weeks of the season.
Last week, we marked Murray as a player on a new team you should consider targeting. With a fresh start in Tennessee, Murray will look to resurrect his career and be one of the more dominant backs in the league again. The Titans have more weapons in place for quarterback Marcus Mariota than this time last season and have added Derrick Henry to the backfield. Henry could take away from some of Murray’s touches but he will still need some time to develop and get accustomed to the NFL speed.
Murray won’t see the same production that he saw in 2014 but that doesn’t mean he can’t finish the season as a top 10 running back. Right now, Murray is projected as the 17th best running back, behind guys like Carlos Hyde and C.J. Anderson. The Titans made some big moves this off-season and could look to make a quick turnaround. Murray could be a major impact in that turnaround and give hope to his fantasy owners once again.
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